Ah yes, the episode where Roger Sterling (very uncomfortably) slaps on blackface for his Derby Day garden party to serenade Jane with a racist song. Awkward and shocking as fuck.
I like that Don and Pete are the two horrified people bearing witness to this mess, while everyone else seems bemused. Don pops off, as he does, to seek out more booze and a moment of silence away from all the tryhard noise surrounding him. He meets an older gentleman in a white tux jacket behind the bar, mistaking him for the barman.
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They have an exchange about feeling out of place at fancy events, an ingrained understanding; way more than we’ve ever seen Don share in the series thus far with just about anyone, perhaps save for Rachel Menken. Fitting that it’s shared with a complete stranger.
Connie: Who are you hiding from?
Don: I am at work .. disguised as a party.
Connie: I’m at work disguised as a wedding. I hate other people’s weddings.
Don: Why’s that?
Connie: Make me nervous, All those expectations. And these poor kids in here– whew! That is a match made in the boardroom. When I was a boy, There was a mansion on the river I used to paddle by in my johnboat. The twinkling lights, violins, girls giggling about something... it’s different inside.
Don: Where are you from?
Connie: San Antonio, New Mexico, before it was a state. Don’t ask me that– old.
Don: You look fit.
Connie: You ever see “A Midsummer Dream” with Mickey Rooney?
Don: “A Midsummer Night’s dream”?
Connie: By golly, you’re prickly! I’m republican, like everyone else in there, but somehow, no matter how expensive my cufflinks, I feel like I’ve got the head of a jackass.
Don: Where I grew up, there was a roadhouse. It boasted live music– that meant a drum, a bass, and a player piano with nobody at it. I parked cars. Fancy people would go there. They’d get loud, they’d get drunk, But they wouldn’t let me use the toilet. So when nature called, I’d open up a trunk and relieve myself.
Connie: You didn’t.
Don: I was 15. There’s probably some kid out there doing it to us right now.
Don and Connie have this experience in common. And like Don, Connie is a climber of the social ladder rather than being born with a silver spoon. But that exclusionary feeling pervades; this feeling of being out of place despite the fact that they wear the proper costume, say all the right things, swing in the swanky circles, but it still just ain’t right. Rachel Menken nailed it in Season 1, and Connie is nailing it here and it resonates. Out of place.
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Meanwhile, Peggy is at the office working on Bacardi. She smokes marijuana (for the first time!) with Paul Kinsey, Smitty, and Kinsey’s cartoonishly handsome Patrick Bateman-esque Princeton drug hookup. Kinsey is unwillingly revealed to be a vaguely uneducated Jersey boy by nature, headed to Princeton on scholarship and putting on airs ever since. He’s insecure about who he really is and is consistently sort of a dick as a reflex.
Enjoying her experience and realising it’s helping her work, Peggy stands up to her judgemental secretary Olive, and gets on with it. She’s being open to new experiences, and doesn’t want to end up like the aforementioned secretary; wringing her hands over her college-aged son, and coming to the office on a Saturday because her husband is taking a trip to the dump.
There are some great scenes with Sally and Grandpa Gene peppered into this episode. Their relationship is sweet, it’s nice that she has an adult figure in her life who treats her (relatively) as an equal; it’s probably the most individual and encouraging attention she’s ever gotten in that house. Sally’s bonding with her grandfather, reading passages aloud from Edward Gibbon’s The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire before bed each night. Metaphorically speaking, Gene is pretty prophetic when he tells Sally “just wait.. all hell’s gonna break loose”. The Sixties are about to get pretty real.
image courtesy of Mad Men Wikia
Sally swipes a $5 bill from his billfold, as kids tend to do when they want to push boundaries. There is panic and a search of the whole house, turning up nada; eventually Sally can’t take it anymore and “Finds It” in the dining room. She’s expecting the worst from Grandpa Gene, but he goes easy on her. I think he’s secretly relieved that it was actually taken and he’s not losing his entire damned mind just yet. As Don and Betty were on their way out to the aforementioned soirée, they were dismissive of his dismay at having his cash pilfered; they, along with Carla, treated his concern as if it wasn’t real. So having some validation must feel good for him at the very least.
Joan and Greg have a dinner party, hosting some of his hospital bros to earn brownie points. Turns out being married to a dignified and worldly woman like Joan is the best thing going for him, as it turns out (shocking nobody) he’s a pretty shit surgeon. This vile idiot wants to keep her in a very specific Wife(TM) box where he’s the alpha, the boss. Greg hates being reminded of the fact that she’s smarter than he is, that she has this whole other life aside from him and great experiences; he admonishes her to entertaining their guests by playing the accordion and singing a French song, which she nails completely.
image courtesy of AMC
Back at the Derby Day garden party, Pete and Trudy show off their admittedly awesome dance moves. Everyone’s yapping about their kids or soon to be kids, and Trudy definitely feels a little left out; so they make up for it in dance form. It’s nice to see Pete enjoying himself too!
image courtesy of ONTD and my own idiocy
Towards the end of the party, Roger walks over at precisely the wrong time as Jane drunkenly grabs at Don wondering if he doesn’t like her. She also blabs that she’s so happy he and Betty got back together, and Betty is naturally mortified. This little scene is a nice role swap of when Don walked in on Roger coming onto Betty in their kitchen in Season 1; here, Roger is pissed. He believes it’s due to the fact that he’s conspicuously happy, Don retorts that everyone just thinks he’s a fool. Later, he sees Roger and Jane slow dancing, as if they’re the only two people in the room, totally content. Maybe Roger’s not a fool.
The episode ends with Ben Webster’s “Memories of You” wafting through the air as Don and Betty share a private moment out in the garden, probably one of the more intimate moments we’ve seen on the series between them as of yet. But hey, that guy Henry might be on her mind..
And oh fuck, is ‘Connie’ actually hotel magnifico Conrad Hilton????? Insert faux-perplexed face here.